CARLETON PAPERS IN APPLIED LANGUAGE STUDIES
conducted exploring the academic success of L2 students in association withlanguage proficiency, learning strategies, study strategies, demographics and avariety of personal characteristics. One of the on-going problems in this research,however, has been the definition of what we mean by L2 students -- ESLstudents, non-native English speaking students, new immigrants, refugees,generation 1.5, foreign, or overseas students, as they are referred to in Australiaand Britain. Thus, the term
can evoke a false image of homogeneitywhen in actual fact these students are more likely to represent a heterogeneouscollection of people from many different countries and cultures – allcharacterized by unique life histories, goals and interests. In fact, individualvariables such as the educational level of a student’s family, familiarity with thehost country before arrival, type and length of courses studied, reasons for studying, and type of financing may be as important as academic background inthese students’ success. In Australia, much of the research related to L2 studentshas focused on what has been generally referred to in that context as the “Asian population”, which in itself is comprised of individuals speaking differentlanguages and practicing different customs. Some research has involved onlyinternational students; while other studies have concentrated on bothinternational and new immigrant students of various nationalities and age groups. In addition to recognizing the diversity in the population under study,Matsuda and Jablonski (1998) make the point that students who come from thesame ethnic, class and linguistic backgrounds as their professors are actually in a privileged position with regard to their potential for academic success. Thisadvantage may be due to their ability to figure out the teachers’ tacitexpectations – a skill made much more difficult for those individuals who shareneither ethnicity nor class. Thus, the heterogeneity and ‘positioning’ of the population under investigation must be kept in mind when makinggeneralizations and predictions regarding academic performance, student needs,and recommendations for language support programs. In the current study, theL2 students who are the focus of this research include both international studentsand immigrants. This research identifies differences in background as a keyfactor in the analyses of the data reported here.
Predicting Academic Performance
Most efforts to predict academic performance have focused on the relationship between English language proficiency and students’ academic achievement asindicated by grade point averages (GPA), faculty opinions, and student perceptions. Research suggests, however, that GPAs vary by academic major (Duran & Weffer, 1992; Johnson, 1988; Light, Xu, & Mossop, 1987), which can